Doing your own nails at home may have become a necessity during the pandemic, but it’s rarely as enjoyable as having an expert tend to your hands and feet just so, and the results usually leave something to be desired. You swipe the polish on, it doesn’t last the way a salon job does, so then you remove, ad infinitum – and there’s rarely care put into an actual manicure or pedicure in between, to tend to the nails themselves. Enter PAX Polish, a brand with a mission to make your your at-home mani easier and faster than ever before and nails as healthy as they are glamorous. We spoke with founder Emma Louise Paxton about why taking care of your nails matters and how to best do so, her take on the eternal mani-pedi conundrum (do you match or do you clash?), and the best fun new colours for the holiday season ahead.

“Nail care is just as important as skincare.

There’s been a real shift from consumers wanting nails that just look good to nails that are actually healthy, as well. I think it makes total sense. Makeup is always going to look better if your skin underneath is being cared for; the same principle applies to our nails.

Hands and feet have a busy time of it and are exposed to a lot of wear and tear. I think of nails as tough little things, and they are to a degree. They’re made of keratin, a protective – though not impermeable – protein. Our nail plate is porous, and our cuticles are even more so, which means we need to be conscious of what we expose our nails to.

In terms of how we look after our nails and that being an element of taking care of our overall health, we should also consider the fumes that are inhaled every time we pop into our local nail salon or bust out traditional polishes and removers at home. It all adds up!

Nail polish, rather like in-person Boxing Day sales, is both very fun and potentially dangerous. Fun, because; colour (or bargains)! Potentially dangerous because of something called ‘the toxic 10’ (or stampedes).

I am committed to proving that dangerous ingredients aren’t a requirement for a salon-quality polish. Our formula is ’10-free’, and made from 82% sustainable plant sources. What does that really mean? Well, we don’t use a lot of bad stuff that was traditionally included in nail polish formulation. While nothing is ever free from chemicals (hello, oxygen and water – yep, both chemicals!), our polish does not contain formaldehyde, tosylamide formaldehyde resin & ethyl tosylamide, toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), xylene, triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), camphor, animal derived ingredients, benzophenone-1 or styrene acrylates. Take it from me – that is all stuff you don’t need in your life!

For me, nail care has always been about two things: self-care and self-expression.

The seeds of PAX were sown when I was pregnant and started investigating the ingredients in the nail polishes I was using. I found there were a lot of elements in there that I didn’t want to use, whether I was pregnant or not. And yet, because there is something about a fresh mani that just makes me feel like I’ve got my life together, I didn’t want to give it up!

So I went on the hunt for something more natural, and which enhanced nail health while still delivering on the performance front. I began trying various green brands – some simply didn’t work well, or had packaging to make them seem ‘natural’ when they really weren’t – and I found that what I wanted didn’t exist. After eighteen months of perfecting a ‘clean and green’ formula that I felt really proud of, I launched PAX, my own Australian-made, eco-luxe alternative to traditional nail polish.

My route to being in the beauty business was not an obvious one at all. Prior to starting PAX, I had been a senior business development executive of a global law firm.

I thrived in that pragmatic environment, and was pleased to find an outlet for my creativity in the role, too. I found purpose in helping develop and uplift the women in my team. When it was time to leave to start PAX, I took with me an ability to challenge the status quo, lean in, speak up and advocate.

To my mind, two of life’s most challenging but rewarding times are starting your own business, and raising a family. Both are huge commitments that demand healthy doses of perseverance, patience and love. 

It can be tricky to balance motherhood with work, but I see my two roles as interconnected. I feared I would lose my sense of self when I became a mum, but it’s actually made me truer to who I really am. It’s good for my two boys to see that I have opinions, and that it’s normal for women to stand up and lead.

My heart is, naturally, with my family before anything else. At the end of every day, whatever is happening at work, I’m diving into the controlled chaos of dinner and bedtime. My husband and I are always looking for teachable moments, to impart the values we try to embody to our boys. For instance, my eldest son is very thoughtful and never wants to hurt anyone’s feelings. He had done really well with something and we had to have a conversation about his understandable want not to brag, but the importance of being proud of yourself. I don’t want my kids to ever hold themselves back.

In a world brimming with nail products, I set our standards sky-high: safe ingredients, naturally nourishing formulas and salon-quality, long lasting results. PAX polishes are high-performing, beautifully packaged and just as ‘clean’ as they are chic.

Our products are proudly Australian made from 82% sustainable plant sources, ’10-free’, cruelty-free and vegan. They are also breathable and water permeable and enriched with active nutrients and botanicals, so that they actively enhance nail health.

Most of the more ‘natural’ nail brands look better suited to health store shelves than a glamorous vanity. We have embraced the ‘more-than-just-a-pretty-face’ aesthetic, with packaging that doubles down on style and functionality. The wand is designed to act as a natural extension of your hand, and the brush is rounded and precise. Together, they empower you to create an easier and faster at-home mani-pedi.

We all deserve to try some new nail polishes this summer!

Whether I am painting my nails  at home (usually while umpiring a game of hallway soccer, or on a video call – camera off!) or supporting my local salon (BYO polish, of course), I am all about a mood-boosting hue at this time of year. As the temperatures climb and the days get brighter and longer, one way to usher in the change of season is by amping up your use of colour. You can find the perfect soft shade to complement your warm-weather wardrobe, or add a bold, vibrant color to really make your beachside look pop.

Water babes will fall for EDITH – this dreamy soft blue just oozes vacation vibes. If you want the perfect rooftop cocktail-ready hue, try our not-so-basic pinks, MELINDA and INDIRA. If you’re a lemonade lover, try JANE, a buttery yellow statement varnish, that’s perfect for chilled weekends. For those who prefer an understated hue, try on-trend powdery neutrals HELENA and AMANI. If a naked mani is more your vibe, glam it up with HELEN, a sheer lilac for the perfect your-nails-but-better mani.

Pedicures are inherently extra — and I mean that in the best possible way!

While your manicured hands are virtually always visible, your feet are not, so you have way more room to play with a colour you may just want to see pops of, versus having it in your face all the time. Whatever colour you may choose, painting your toenails at all is arguably unnecessary, which is what makes it so delightfully self-indulgent. It’s an act of self-expression that is truly intended for your own consumption more than anyone else’s, because no one sees your toes more than you do.  So it’s definitely time to get thinking about what shade you want your next fun summer pedi to be!

If you’re after a pink that will instantly update any strappy slide, choose either the sunny, mood-transforming ELIZABETH, or the playful candy pink AMELIA. If a smattering of glitter is the only thing that will do, the glistening gold of AUDREY promises to make every step you take shimmer. Risk-takers in need of a quick pick-me-up will revel in ANGELA, our tangerine creation, or in MARILYN, a red-orange hue – both induce dreams of far-flung beach vacations. Basically, whatever mood (or location) you’re in this summer, we’ve got you and your feet fully covered.

It’s the eternal mani-pedi question… should you match your tips to your toes? 

It’s been more than ten years since Kourtney Kardashian declared that non-matching nail polish choices “give her the chills.” It’s unclear what her official stance might be on the subject in 2022, but I’m all ears if she wants to reach out.

If you’re questioning it yourself, my thoughts are: don’t do it. Matching your nails is boring, haha! I think the idea is a little dated. Beauty is more inventive than ever, now, and that includes your mani-pedi options. If you have a strong preference for a unified look, then of course continue to match. But if you’re on the fence, consider this permission granted to try something different.

With PAX, I want to produce safe, high-performing products that are beautifully designed, accessibly priced, and easy to get your hands on. In the short year since our launch, we have partnered with Sephora in Australia and New Zealand and with Douglas in Germany, Italy and Spain.  Soon, customers will be able to get their hands on PAX in the US and UK. It’s a very exciting time.

Often, we forget how important the little downtime is that we get to take for ourselves. It is precious, so it’s helpful to put measures in place in order to maximise our chances to rest, relax and recover.  It takes years of practice to optimise our self-care routines. For me, a big part of that routine is the magic of a fresh mani. I hope PAX will empower people to spend time both taking care of themselves, and expressing themselves.”

Story by Zoe Briggs. Hair and makeup by Jess Diez. Emma wears clothing by Alémais and jewellery by Valére. Imagery supplied by PAX Polish.

This article was produced in partnership with PAX Polish.

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